Don't pay upfront - Homeowner says he was stung

| 28 Sep 2011 | 03:00

    DINGMAN TOWNSHIP - A 73-year-old, Sunrise Lake homeowner believes his situation is hopeless, but that others could learn from his experience with an unscrupulous contractor. The Courier is withholding the name of the New York City man and part-time Pike resident, who fears reprisals against property. This spring he paid a local man $2,500 in advance to powerwash and stain his deck and cedar-sided home. The property owner had learned of the workman by accident. “My wife and I stopped at a flea market and saw that the house was newly stained. We asked who had done the work and were referred,” he said. The man agreed to terms in June and powerwashed the home shortly thereafter. “But he never returned. He absconded and didn’t ever do the job.” the property owner complained. “He had all kinds of excuses, he had to play softball, had to be with his fiance’s baby, had a friend die. It rained...We got screwed,” He called the state police, who told him to get a lawyer for civil action. Afraid that lawyer’s fee would quickly match his existing loss, he did nothing. “My wife told me to look at like a bad stock purchase...I got screwed,” he said. Still, he wanted to warn others. “Don’t pay upfront. Get references. Go look at other work a contractor has done. Most of all, don’t pay before the work is done,” he said. Assistant Pike County District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said the property does have recourse. If a contractor takes payment and does nothing, that’s breach of contract and the DA’s office can act. “If he does it poorly or partially, then it is a civil matter,” Tonkin confirmed. But there are still remedies, he said. Local district magisterial courts can hear complaints involving amounts up to $8,000, “and you don’t need a lawyer,” Tonkin said. Beyond that, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Bureau of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. Kathy McAndrew of the bureau office in Scranton says the office receives a steady flow of home contractor complaints. Fielding complaints, the bureau will look for repeated instances have left numerous victims behind. “And you don’t need a lawyer,” she added. For more information about the bureau, visit the attorney generals’ website at